Flirting with Languages…

Other day I walked into Starbucks and I saw latin american physics friend sitting there with Iranian physics student. I walked up to them and said “Hola, Qué tal?“, since I am learning spanish for last 5-6 months, that’s how I say hello these days to spanish speaking friends. Then I looked at Iranian guy and said “Salam“.Technically I don’t know anything about Iranian/Persian. But from Bollywood movies and some hollywood movies, I knew Salam. Latin american friend laughed immediately and said “So now you are learning all languages to impress more girls?” I replied “I know how to say ‘Hi’, ‘how are you?’, ‘fine’, ‘bye’.. in 13-14 different languages.”

Later I thought about it and I came to this conclusion that I don’t learn these words from different languages to impress girls, it is just about the fun I get by flirting with languages. Just look at what I have learned from Chinese. Once my chinese officemate said “Things you say are said by uneducated people in China..” 😉 I asked how to say some decent things and I was checking my pronunciation and I got this reply “this is ok, but not as good as abusive words you have learned.”

Ok. Why do I call these experiences with languages as flirting? Because I am not a linguist. I don’t have good command over my mother tongue, Marathi or English which I studied for around 20 years (after first 10 years, it was just the language of instruction, I never took english literature classes)  in school and college-university or Hindi which I studied for 3 years in the middle school and learned mostly through Bollywood movies and during my stay in Kanpur for undergrad. I can talk in these 3 languages for hours but my writings in these languages will be literary simple and will not have sophisticated, complex twists and turns. My skills are efficient only for the effective communication and professional requirements. I never wanted to polish them beyond that.

In high school, I took Sanskrit[Ancient Indian Language] classes for 5 years. But I always knew, I had just learned the rules of grammar and translations and my communication skills were/are really bad. One reason might be because nobody uses it in India anymore and now it is mostly studied for academic curiosity. For school as language classes, I had to learn Marathi till 10th grade, English till 12th, Hindi from 5th to 7th and Sanskrit from 8th to 12th. Methods of teaching followed in Indian schools are extremely annoying. Again I am not a linguist or educationalist to comment on these methods. Somehow personally learning new languages was not fun at all those days. Because one had to present his/her skills in very specific format following ridiculous rules (like essays should have at least ‘n’ words, they should always start with some poem or some famous quote, etc). As Einstein said, ‘The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education’.

I was not exposed well to Hindi academically, just 3 years of basic training. It was extremely bad and I used many Marathi/English words to make my sentences. My friends from 7th/8th grade still laugh at me when they remember those days. 🙂 Later my hindi got better, my friend who still remembers that embarrassing hindi conversation from 8th grade told me few years ago “wow! now your hindi is much better than all of us.”:) English was the language of instruction at my undergrad school, but hindi was the language widely used in dorms. Now I feel my hindi is as good as my Marathi/English.

In 2009, I came to the US for graduate school and as I always tell one of the greatest aspects of American grad schools is that you make so many international friends from US/Canada to Chile, from Spain to Russia, from China, Korea… You can closely observe so many cultures, people speak so many languages. I had few officemates from Chile and Argentina so I kept on hearing spanish a lot and slowly I started learning it. It is fun to learn new language especially when you know that you won’t have an exam and no matter how you do, people will appreciate your efforts for learning their language or at least saying few sentences. I am still at very basic stage of the spanish. Hopefully my spanish will reach the level of my English/Marathi/Hindi. In March 2013, I went to Italy and I bought a book to learn basics of Italian. I haven’t put enough efforts on Italian, but I have promised that one day I’ll put definite efforts to learn it.

When I understood that saying “Hi, How are you?” or “What’s up?” in that person’s language makes him/her really happy or at least it is good way to make person smile as we will never get the accent right. 🙂 So with this intension nothing more 😉 and curiosity, I started having conversations with Hebrew speaking people, Chinese speaking friends… And as of now, I can say at least “Hi”,”How are you?”, “Thank you”, “Bye” in English/Marathi/Hindi/Sanskrit/Bengali/Punjabi/Spanish/ Italian/Slovenian/Persian/Chinese/Hebrew. I would like to put those extra efforts and learn spanish/italian so that I can communicate. I might add 1-2 languages to learn based on circumstances. 🙂

We are talking about languages and flirting then why should we keep programming languages aside? I have done similar flirting with computer languages too. I have taken classes on Java and Fortran (Yes, even today they teach physics students that language, it is Sanskrit or Latin of Programming languages. :P) during my undergrad. On my own I have played with C/C++/Python.  C++ is the one I am comfortable with and I want to learn Python more as I think future will speak Python. 😉 And I must say there is some fun in flirting with computer languages too. You don’t get to see happy human faces when you write a “Hello World!” program, but come on you can just add “:)”.

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My name and variations!

In last 10 days, I was asked 6-7 times (Indians included) how I say my name. Ok, wait! This might become a narcissist blog with lot of “I’s”, but come on! If you are reading this, then you probably know me and might have noticed my narcissist qualities. So, coming back to the point, I thought about my blog today and I decided to write a blog about my name. I am going to tell you what it means, how it is said correctly*, variations I have come across and stories associated with them. Let me tell you in the beginning itself, I don’t get offended by any variation. So you don’t have to try to change the way you call me. 🙂

Sujan (सुजन) : It is a sanskrit word. It means a good person, opposite of a bad person (Durjan/दुर्जन). Su+jan and Su stands for good and jan stands for person. My birth-certificate is typed/written marathi (my mother tongue, not Hindi, even if I am an Indian and I am fluent in Hindi) and English. Dharmesh from Stony Brook suggested that if people ask me the meaning, I should tell them “Fine-man” instead of good person. In theoretical physics, supersymmetry is usually referred as ‘SuSy’ and Supergravity as “SuGra”. With that logic, Sujan can be interpreted as ‘Super-Person’ or simply ‘Superman’. hahaha!

Variations:

1) Sujān (सुजान): This is the most popular variation and I must say now I have heard this so many times that sometimes even I have introduced myself this way. Back in IIT Kanpur, my friends called me like this mostly. Kanpur comes in the Hindi speaking region of India and in Hindi, they have a word Soojan (सूजन, notice the difference), which means swelling. 😛 Now, even in the US, I am mostly called Sujaan and I usually respond because I am so used to this variation. 🙂 Sujān is the way to spell Hindi/Marathi word if you want to put an extra stress on “a” (I am not good in this, just trying), but my name has just one ‘a’ so “ja” should sound like  “ju”st!

2) Sujyā (सुज्या): This is typical marathi way of calling a friend. In my primary and secondary schools, my friends called me this way. I don’t really like this variation.

3) Sujanya (सुजन्या ): This is how I am called by my family and relatives. I don’t like or hate it, but if you call me this way, I’ll feel very comfortable talking to you.

4) Sujon : I don’t even know how to type it in Hindi/Marathi script. This is how Bengalis call me. I had a Prof in UG, he always called me this way, It means the same in Bengali, but they call “Shu-Jon”. 😛

5) Susan or Suzanne : I am sorry, these are not my names or variations and if you call me this way, I might not even respond, because I might not even realize that somebody is calling me.

6) Suji: This is also one way people call me and I usually respond as most of these guys are my good friends. But if you call “Suzy”, then I might not realize that you are calling me.

Let’s come to story part.

1) I was in the 9th grade and I applied for some scholarship exam. The form was in English so I wrote Sujan. I cleared the exam and got the scholarship. When I saw the certificate, it was in Marathi with my name as सुजाण(Sujaan’s variation. In marathi, we have 2 ways to say n. :P). This word has a good meaning but it is not my name. Anyway, I was interested in the prize money. 😉

2) I was playing soccer in the US for the first time. We had lot of spanish speaking players and they knew how I spell my name but during the game, they never called with “j” and I didn’t realize they were calling my name and asking me to pass the ball. Pedro came to me and asked me how I say my name. He never got it wrong after that (up to allowed variation 😉 ) and he also realized I am bad in passing the ball anyway. 😛

3) This is probably the best one. I was appointed as TA for Prof. X. First time he wrote me an email to decide the time for a meeting to plan TA-work. He wrote “Dear Susan,….”. When I wrote to him that he had misspelled my name and it is ‘Sujan’, not ‘Susan’, he replied, “Dear Ms Dabholkar, ………”  I had to mail him again to tell him my gender. 😛

4) Once a korean girl, visitor of workshop was looking for me and somebody introduced her to me, she said “Sujan..you? ok.. I thought you were a girl.” 😛

*(Audio file ll be sent on request :P, yes I have prepared audio file for interested people. I am trying to find how to upload the file on wordpress.)

Favorite Quotes!

I think I’ll keep on updating this blog regularly as my favorite quotes increase everyday. 🙂 Also, I’ll add dialogues from movies and TV if I think they are good enough in general.

1. Nothing is more interesting to the true theorist than a fact which directly contradicts a theory generally accepted up to that time, for this is his particular work. – Max Planck

2. Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it. – Richard Feynman

3. A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. – Max Planck

4. We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning. – Werner Heisenberg

5. I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research. – Albert Einstein

6. If we are honest — and scientists have to be — we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. – Paul Dirac

7. In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in the case of poetry, it’s the exact opposite! – Paul Dirac

8. If I could remember the names of all these particles, I’d be a botanist. – Enrico Fermi

9. If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants. – Isaac Newton

10. Einstein is the only figure in the physical sciences with a stature that can be compared with Newton. Both Newton and Einstein put forward a theory of mechanics and a theory of gravity but Einstein was able to base General Relativity on the mathematical theory of curved spaces that had been constructed by Riemann while Newton had to develop his own mathematical machinery. It is therefore appropriate to acclaim Newton as the greatest figure in mathematical physics and the Principia is his greatest achievement. – Stephen Hawking

11. It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. – Charles Darwin

12. The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. -Henri Poincare

13. The hardest part of research is always to find a question big enough, that is worth answering but little enough so that you can answer it. – Edward Witten

14. The Universe cannot be read until we have the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and the letters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without which it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word. – Galileo Galilei [He definitely didn’t know about Calabi-Yau manifolds. ;)]

15. Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear.  A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. – Hunger Games

16. It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil — which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama. – Richard Feynman

17. You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. – Harvey Dent from Batman

18. Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. – Horace Mann.

Who am I?

When I was doing my undergraduate studies, this song was very popular. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTxZy32Fv_0) I never understood the meaning of this song as the language is Punjabi. Today after so many years, while going through youtube links, I came across this song so I immediately decided to read its english translation.

This is what I got from Google:

Bulla ki jaana main kaun –
Bulla, who am I?
I am no believer in mosque
I have no pagan ways
I am not pure amongst vile
I do not have Vedas or holy books in me
I do not stay drunk on Bhaang or wine
Nor do I stay high and spoilt
I am not Well-preserved(holy) nor am I wasted
Neither amongst holy or vile
I am neither water nor dust
Na main aatish na main paun –
I am neither fire nor wind

Bulla, who am I?

I am neither Arab nor from Lahore
Neither from the Hind… or any city thereof..
Neither Hindu, nor Turk, nor Peshawari..
I haven’t found the secret of religion
I’m not Adam (the 1st born), Eve or any thereof..
Nor have I named myself
The first and the last person I know is me
I recognize no second to it
I do not know anyone wiser than me
Bullashan, who is this man standing?

Bulla, who am I?

I am neither Moses nor Pharoah
I am not awake nor in sleep
I am neither fire nor wind
I do not stay in Nadaun (city of innocents)
Neither am I sitting (idle) nor in storm
Bullashan, who is this man standing?

Bulla, who am I?

****************************************

I am happy to know the meaning of this song and to realize that there are many just like me who are not ready to put themselves under usual social frameworks. I don’t think I have ever thought of “Who am I?”. Only thing I have understood about ‘life’ so far is “I have got an opportunity to live one life and I want to live it on my own terms without hurting others and importantly without hurting myself”. Enjoy! 🙂

Halloween and related nontrivial ideas

Technically this will be my 3rd halloween. What did I do last 2 years? In 2009, I think I was in my apartment watching some TV episode on Hulu. In 2010, I was grading homeworks as a part of teaching assignment. I was invited for 2010 halloween party by some american friends. But I had no idea how to dress up for Halloween and somehow managed to convince them I was busy. Even after 2.5 years I don’t know how to dress up for Halloween or How to dress up for any damn occasion. Tshirt/Shorts for summer and Tshirt/jeans for winter sum up everything about my dressing. In 2011, my friend circle has extended so much so that in last few days I was bombarded with questions :”What are you dressing up as for Halloween?””Have you bought your costume?””What’s your plan for halloween, dude?” Some friends even took me to a store where people were buying Halloween costumes and accessories. Kids were having fun and I was wondering all the time what I was doing there. I bought Dracula teeth, thats all I could do to please my friends.

Over last few days, I was thinking how to tell people that I am not coming for Halloween party or I am not going to dress up as somebody. I would like to share some of these ideas.
Case 1: If you don’t want to attend Halloween party.
1. I shall be Higgs boson, nobody can see me at your party.
2. I shall come up as a superpartner (supersymmetric partner) of myself, unfortunately super partners are not observed yet.
3. I shall come to your party, but I’ll prefer to stay in extra dimensions.
4. (Lame) I shall be superluminal neutrino.
Case 2: If you don’t want to dress up for the party.
1. My costume belongs to Imaginary axis, thus it is purely imaginary.
2. I expanded my costume in Kaluza-Klein states, only zero mode survived.
3. I started up with a cool costume, but that was metastable so eventually I ended up in this stable costume.

There is no doubt that I would have loved this event thoroughly when I was a kid. In Graduate school, I just find it stupid. (Don’t mind if you have/had invited me for Halloween. By now, you probably know that I make fun of almost everything. :P)

Scientist: Four golden lessons

This is the talk which Steven Weinberg delivered at McGill University.—

“When I received my undergraduate degree — about a hundred years ago — the physics literature seemed to me a vast, unexplored ocean, every part of which I had to chart before beginning any research of my own. How could I do anything without knowing everything that had already been done? Fortunately, in my first year of graduate school, I had the good luck to fall into the hands of senior physicists who insisted, over my anxious objections, that I must start doing research, and pick up what I needed to know as I went along. It was sink or swim. To my surprise, I found that this works. I managed to get a quick PhD — though when I got it I knew almost nothing about physics. But I did learn one big thing: that no one knows everything, and you don’t have to.

Another lesson to be learned, to continue using my oceanographic metaphor, is that while you are swimming and not sinking you should aim for rough water. When I was teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the late 1960s, a student told me that he wanted to go into general relativity rather than the area I was working on, elementary particle physics, because the principles of the former were well known, while the latter seemed like a mess to him. It struck me that he had just given a perfectly good reason for doing the opposite. Particle physics was an area where creative work could still be done. It really was a mess in the 1960s, but since that time the work of many theoretical and experimental physicists has been able to sort it out, and put everything (well, almost everything) together in a beautiful theory known as the standard model. My advice is to go for the messes — that’s where the action is.

My third piece of advice is probably the hardest to take. It is to forgive yourself for wasting time. Students are only asked to solve problems that their professors (unless unusually cruel) know to be solvable. In addition, it doesn’t matter if the problems are scientifically important — they have to be solved to pass the course. But in the real world, it’s very hard to know which problems are important, and you never know whether at a given moment in history a problem is solvable. At the beginning of the twentieth century, several leading physicists, including Lorentz and Abraham, were trying to work out a theory of the electron. This was partly in order to understand why all attempts to detect effects of Earth’s motion through the ether had failed. We now know that they were working on the wrong problem. At that time, no one could have developed a successful theory of the electron, because quantum mechanics had not yet been discovered. It took the genius of Albert Einstein in 1905 to realize that the right problem on which to work was the effect of motion on measurements of space and time. This led him to the special theory of relativity. As you will never be sure which are the right problems to work on, most of the time that you spend in the laboratory or at your desk will be wasted. If you want to be creative, then you will have to get used to spending most of your time not being creative, to being becalmed on the ocean of scientific knowledge.

Finally, learn something about the history of science, or at a minimum the history of your own branch of science. The least important reason for this is that the history may actually be of some use to you in your own scientific work. For instance, now and then scientists are hampered by believing one of the over-simplified models of science that have been proposed by philosophers from Francis Bacon to Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper. The best antidote to the philosophy of science is a knowledge of the history of science.

More importantly, the history of science can make your work seem more worthwhile to you. As a scientist, you’re probably not going to get rich. Your friends and relatives probably won’t understand what you’re doing. And if you work in a field like elementary particle physics, you won’t even have the satisfaction of doing something that is immediately useful. But you can get great satisfaction by recognizing that your work in science is a part of history.

Look back 100 years, to 1903. How important is it now who was Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1903, or President of the United States? What stands out as really important is that at McGill University, Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy were working out the nature of radioactivity. This work (of course!) had practical applications, but much more important were its cultural implications. The understanding of radioactivity allowed physicists to explain how the Sun and Earth’s cores could still be hot after millions of years. In this way, it removed the last scientific objection to what many geologists and paleontologists thought was the great age of the Earth and the Sun. After this, Christians and Jews either had to give up belief in the literal truth of the Bible or resign themselves to intellectual irrelevance. This was just one step in a sequence of steps from Galileo through Newton and Darwin to the present that, time after time, has weakened the hold of religious dogmatism. Reading any newspaper nowadays is enough to show you that this work is not yet complete. But it is civilizing work, of which scientists are able to feel proud.”

Einstein’s views about Mathematics

One reason why mathematics enjoys special esteem,above all other sciences,is that its propositions are absolutely certain and indisputable,while those of all other sciences are to some extent debatable and in constant danger of being overthrown by newly discovered facts. In spite of this, the investigator in another department of science would not need to envy the mathematician if the propositions of mathematics refered to objects of our mere imagination, and not to objects of reality.
There is another reason for the high repute of mathematics, in that it is mathematics which affords the exact natural sciences a certain measure of certainty,to which without mathematics they could not attain.